Just Ask. Then Keep Asking.
By LISA RANDALL, professor of physics, Harvard University and author of "Knocking on Heaven's Door"
I was shy the way many geeky girls can be. Professors hardly noticed that they rarely answered girls’ questions before some boy who didn’t actually know the answer interrupted. But a professor who later became my adviser gave me the best advice I ever received, which was to not be afraid to speak up and ask questions. Suddenly teachers were speaking directly to me, and my questions were usually good enough that I could detect the relief of other students who actually had the same ones, reassuring me I was doing the right thing. Now, as a professor, I know not to see classes as passive experiences. The occasional interruption keeps people engaged and illuminates subtle points, and in research even leads to new research directions. Just participating and questioning makes your mind work better. Don’t you agree?
In the same article, "The Educational Experiences That Change a Life," others recall pivotal moments in their learning.